Born, Beaumont, Texas, October 8, 1928, Tom Tierney began his formal art instruction at the age of six with a private instructor, Juanita Brown.
He began studying life drawing and landscape painting at the age of twelve under Coleman Cohen and still-life painting under Mrs. Joe Price.
On graduating from high school in l945, he received the Nancy Beeman Strong Art Scholarship award and the Veesy Rainwater Painting Scholarship award.
He attended Lamar Junior College in 1945 and 1946. In 1947 he entered the University of Texas College of Fine Arts, graduating in 1949, magna cum laude, with a B.F.A., majoring in painting and minoring in sculpture.
At the University of Texas he studied under Eugene Trentham, Henry Lyons, John Gonzales, Julius Woeltz, and John Bernhardt for painting; Charles Umlauf and William McVey for sculpture; Constance Forsythe for lithography and printmaking, and Marian Davis for art history.
While attending the University of Texas he worked as a student assistant in the art history, sculpture, and graphic arts departments.
In 1948, while still attending the University of Texas, he won the Texas Fellowship Painting Award and spent a semester studying in Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (University of Colorado), where he studied fresco painting under Jean Charlot and landscape painting under Julio de Martino. He also worked on stage sets with the Hanya Holm modern dance group while there.
Tom began freelance fashion illustration while in high school for local department stores in his hometown and continued doing freelance fashion illustration in Austin, principally for Goodfriend's Specialty Shop, while attending the University of Texas.
Upon graduation from college he became a fashion illustrator for Scarborough's Department Store specializing in women's wear.
Tierney then moved to Houston, Texas and became a layout artist for Foley's department store. From Foley's he then moved to The Fashion woman's specialty store as a fashion illustrator (whileat The Fashion it was purchased by Nieman Marcus and became Nieman's of Houston).
In l951 he entered the U.S. Army, serving until 1953 as a recruiting artist, and was stationed in Dallas and San Antonio, Texas.
On his own time, he did free-lance fashion illustration for Sanger's, W.A. Green's, and Titche-Goettinger's in Dallas, and Frost's Department Store in San Antonio. He also did free-lance illustration for Straley television studio in San Antonio.
While in the army he received a Purchase Award for watercolor in the Texas General Exhibition at the Witte Museum in San Antonio as well as a first prize in oil painting at the Beaumont Museum.
After serving in the army, Tierney returned to Houston and went to work for Battlestein's as their men's and children's fashion artist. While at Battlestein's he won a national award for outstanding men's fashion art in advertising.
In Houston he studied figure painting at the Houston Museum's evening classes.
In 1954, Tom moved to New York and attended Pratt Institute (1954-55) where he studied nature drawing with Dorothy Taylor, anatomy drawing with Krushev Ajoutian, sculpture with Calvin Albert and painting under Gustin and Bovais.
While attending Pratt, Tom began free-lancing for J. C. Penney, first doing children's fashion art and later men's and women's fashion art for them. His association with Penney's lasted for over fourteen years.
Concurrent with Penney's, he did free-lance art for Harper's Bazaar Magazine,
Lane Bryant Stores, Du Pont fabrics, Show Magazine, Tussy Colognes, Style
Lingerie, Campus Sportswear, Sports Illustrated Magazine, and Franklin Simon's
In 1969 he took a retainer to do fashion illustration for Gimble's for one year.
In 1970 he became fashion illustrator for Orbach's, doing men, children and women's fashion art.
After one year of doing art work for Orbach's exclusively, he returned to general free-lancing with accounts including A&S, Macy's, Korvette's, Sear's, Treasure Island, Montgomery Wards, The Town Shops, Kempton's, Manufacturer's Advertising, Advertir Ltd., David Crystal, Roaman's, Fein, Silver, and Soloway, Allied Graphic arts, Belk's Stores and others. He also produced a number of film posters for the Shorlane Bennet Agency.
His agents have been Gloria Karlson, Patricia Kaiser, Sylvia Fein, Evelyne and Bud Johnson, and Lewis Chambers. He now acts as his own agent in most instances.
During his years as a free-lance artist in New York, Tom has attended art classes at The Art Student's League where he studied fashion drawing under Dagmar Froekin, The High School of Visual Arts evening classes for conceptual art under Jack Potter, and fashion drawing classes at Pel's art school.
Tom Tierney has also done a number of portrait commissions with his sitters including Lorena Keith, Maeve Mcguire, John Arrington, Mrs. David Jones, Philip Diamante, Bobbie Mahler, Mark Forbes, Robin Glass, The Gregory Schenkewitz family, Carol Gunn,
Joyce Bell, Kira Kalichevsky, Irma Hurley, Curtis Glanville, as well as a goodly number of children's portraits and family groups.
In the mid-50s, because he had always been interested in the dance, Tom began to study ballet and tap dance with Emile Faustin. This led to further study, including creative expression and Graham technique with Judy Martin. As a result, he was in on the creation of the Paper Bag Players, a children's dance troupe, with Miss Martin.
After a dance related injury he began the study of singing with Gary Azaroff, and then vocal styling with Lady Bea Holland. In 1968 he had his debut as a nightclub singer at the Upstairs at the Duplex in Greenwich Village, coached and accompanied by John Wallowitch. After several successful nightclub engagements, including Trudy Heller's and the Plaza Hotel, he decided that a singing career was not to be, due to the conflict between the hours required for rehearsals and performing and his on-going career as a fashion illustrator.
In 1963 Tom bought a forty-acre farm in Hopewell Junction, Kent Township, New York that had an abandoned 150-year-old farmhouse and several barns of various ages. Since that time the restoration and maintenance of the house and gardens have been his chief hobby and relaxation. Tom sold the propery in 2007.
In 1966 he bought and fully restored a nineteenth century brownstone on West 76th Street in Manhattan where he and his parents lived (his father was his business manager).
When his parents decided to retire and return to their home in Texas, the prospect of maintaining a five story private home for one, in mid-town Manhattan, plus maintaining the farm property, seemed too much of a burden, so with regret the brownstone was sold.
Tierney then maintained a rented studio apartment in New York City as well as the farmhouse in the country.
In 1986 Tom Tierney Studios, Inc. (after the death of his father) was dissolved. In 1994 Tom incorporated the help of family and chartered Tom-Kat Paper Dolls, TKP, Inc. so that his mail order business could be established. His great-niece, Bridget designed and created his first website and has redesigned the site twice since, once with the assistance of her fiancé.
In 1975 Tom was casting about for a unique Christmas present for his mother. Remembering that she had saved her paper doll collection from when she was a girl in the early 1900s (Lettie Lane, G.G. Drayton, and assorted movie star paper dolls) he decided to make her some paper dolls of the 1930s movie stars who had been her favorites.
Pleased with the dolls, Garbo, Harlow, and Gable, his mother showed them to a number of friends, one of who turned out to be a literary agent. The agent convinced Tom that a book was possible, and as a result, his first book, "Thirty from the `30s", was born. It was published by Prentice-Hall in 1976. After "Thirty" had a successful run it was retired.
In 1978 Dover Publications, Inc. contacted Tom and proposed that he do some paper doll books for them. It has been a happy and continuing relationship.
He has also written, in collaboration with Malcolm Vance, a history of film costume design, which though sold twice, is as yet unpublished. The real bonus from that project was meeting and becoming friends with many of Hollywood's fabled costume designers such as Edith Head, Walter Plunkett, Bob Mackie, Howard Shoup, Gwen Wakeling, Bill Travilla, Leah Rhodes, and many others from the classic film era, as well meeting many of his favorite film stars.
During the '80s Tom and Joyce McClelland published a series of paper doll folios under the imprimatur of "Fine Arts Limited Editions". These folios included a series of famous stage and screen personalities as well a several folios on famous women authors.
In 1994 he began an association with B. Shackman Inc. Publications in addition to his affiliation with Dover. His work for Shackman will not conflict with that for Dover Publishing, but will "fill in the gaps" with projects that are different in concept from his Dover line.
In 1995, Tom did a set of "Star Trek" paper dolls for the first edition of "TV Guide's Collector's Edition" which is currently on the newsstands. His latest 1996 star piece was a Tracy Ullman p d for H.B.O. It was a special invitation for the preview of her series and only 1000 were printed. The series of Ullman dolls was expanded and used by Tracy in her book. In '97, Tom did a Marv. Albert p.d. for TV Guide and in '98 he was commissioned by "Out" magazine to do paper dolls to illustrate a feature editorial. Through the '90s, Tom has done paper dolls for several other magazines and commercial accounts, including a recent post card for "Reebok" sneakers.
In 1998 he started teaching a laboratory class in fashion sketching at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Although he thoroughly enjoyed the teaching experience, he has decided that teaching takes up too much of his time and that he would rather be working on his own projects at his own drawing board.
It is interesting to note that the New York Times has reviewed Tom Tierney's work thrice, and that he is the only paper doll artist to have a review in their Literary Section. Smithsonian Magazine has also featured him in an article about Dover Publishing. He has appeared on several TV programs, including "What's My Line", "CNN News", and "NBC News", and the "Joe Franklin Show", as well as being featured in a number of major newspaper's articles. In 1997 He was featured in the "Talk of the Town" section of the New Yorker Magazine. In 1999 his paper dolls of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Blanchette were featured in the N.Y. Times "Style" magazine, and in 2000 McCall's "Star Style" magazine featured three of his paper dolls, Katherine Zeta Jones, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Nicole Kidman. His work was featured on the cover of the American Costumer's Magazine for Dec. 2000, and in January of 2001 he was interviewed and quoted as an authority on "Presidential Dressing" in the New York Daily News.
About his paper doll work Tom Tierney states: "I feel that the most important thing about my paper doll books is that I am using the medium of the paper doll as an art form. To me, paper dolls can be more than just some 'cutsie' bit of fluff to be thrown at the children to perpetuate boredom. They can be artistic, vital, and alive and can tell us much about people, the clothes they wore, the way they lived and something of the times in which they lived. I also feel that the animation of the dolls and the costumes can indicate much about the personality of the subject. In conjunction with drawing the dolls I also write my own text, which I feel is an important adjunct to my books, explaining my `raison d'être' for treating the subject. Of course, I also thoroughly enjoy doing all the other sorts of illustration that I am involved in. The greater the variety, the less opportunity for stagnation to set in!"
Perhaps the greatest "perk" to come from his career as a paper doll artist is to receive fan mail from all around the world.
Tom has moved to Smithville, Texas. Patrick is Tom's business assistant and creates computer graphics from Tom's self-published pieces, while Kathy stays busy managing the web site and mail orders. Tom, Kathy, and Patrick are partners in their corporation, "Tom-Kat Paper Dolls".